Tom’s Diner will probably disappear as Denverites withdraw bid to preserve it

Tom’s Diner: Not always open.

Tom's Diner on East Colfax Avenue, July 25, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Tom's Diner on East Colfax Avenue, July 25, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

A group of five Denverites hoping to pin a “historic landmark” status on Tom’s Diner against the owner’s wishes withdrew their application Thursday, the Denver planning department confirmed.

Owner Tom Messina planned to close the restaurant regardless. Some locals wanted to keep the building, an example of car-inspired Americana architecture known as Googie.

Tom's Diner on East Colfax Avenue, July 25, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Tom's Diner on East Colfax Avenue, July 25, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“We entered into this process to try to find a preservation-minded outcome for the building, which carries architectural, historical and cultural value in our community, and which we believe enhances that Colfax corridor and can be integrated with new development,” the applicants wrote in a letter to the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission. “We have agreed to withdraw our application in an effort to find alternative solutions for this site and hope that the property owner and current developer will engage with u s in good faith moving forward.”

Messina is free to sell his corner lot at East Colfax Avenue and Pearl Street to a developer, who will likely demolish the diner and build apartment homes in its place.

Messina says a deal in place is worth $4.8 million.

Tom Messina speaks to reporters inside Tom's Diner on East Colfax Avenue, North Capitol Hill, Aug. 15, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Tom Messina speaks to reporters inside Tom's Diner on East Colfax Avenue, North Capitol Hill, Aug. 15, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Admirers of the low-lying, angular-roofed greasy spoon might have a lot of history there, but the city government will officially deem the building non-historical for five years.

Messina aimed to retire with the windfall and claimed efforts to preserve the building were “stealing his retirement.” The situation highlighted the tension between old and new Denver, as well as the tension between individual property rights and historic preservation.

Messina or the developer he sells to still has to obtain demolition permits, but no hurdles are expected, according to a planning department spokesperson.

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